The mood after Brexit in Europe was of incredulity. Why on earth? The United Kingdom was enjoying one of the best economies in the continent. They couldn’t even complain about the Euro. And already enjoyed a privileged treatment, Thachter Rebate and all.
Plus, much more than boring Bruxelles, London was shaping to be the economic and cultural capital of Europe. All major financial transactions transited through its banks. It was ‘the big city’ every youth dreamed of. The media even reported on British royal family gossip almost as if they were our own reigning monarchs.
And yet they left. In the bitterest of terms. Truly, it was a sad affair.
In many cases, on this side, incredulity turned to anger. How dare they? Do they hate us for no reason? Well f*ck them too, then! No pity in negotiations! Make them suffer!
…but as always, emotion is not a good counselor.
Now; if I was British, I wouldn’t come to terms with it. Losing mi rights of freely moving on a whole continent isn’t something I’d take lightly.
However -I’m not. I still have a whole continent. Minus one rainy island.
Yes, it’s a very prominent island. But, if you look into it, Europe’s strength was never in its unity. Yes, our division was ultimately our downfall in 1914-1945. But the reason we had before conquered the world in the first place, was largely the competition between us. While the Holy German Empire and Byzantium declined, Spain and Venice took over; then as they declined too, France and then England and Prussia were experimenting different models, and took over in turn carrying the European torch. Ultimately, as the world became more connected, the latest winners brought back from poverty their decaying peers too, through example and trade. Just imagine a unified empire -like the Chinese, or the Ottomans. Once that became rotten, there was no end to the decline.
So, on the one hand, too much division makes no sense. After all -at no single point in history have we had this many states. Yes, most modern states can trace their origin to some entity existing at some point in time… but for most of its history, Europe was divided between just a handful of states and empires. Today, Czechs and Slovaks, Slovenians and Croatians want their own State. But a hard boundary between them is an absurdity, as it always was. The European Union is here to stay.
On the other hand, though, we should welcome experimentation. The EU already leaves plenty of freedom. But just on the off chance we should ever be all wrong -welcome, our new guinea pig to experiment an ever more radical alternative path.
It does seem they intend to actually take a different path, after all
Switzerland and Norway are already out there; but, a bigger state is definitely more representative. And among us, the UK is arguably the only one which can take such a risk. A strong economy and unique ties with most of the world will help make Brexit less painful than it would be for any of the others.
And on the off chance that it will actually turn out a success one day -we will have learned something.
In the meantime, there is a second point to consider; and it too is in favor. It’s that losing the only big piece where the common tongue is natively spoken, might remove a dangerous unbalance.
Why young people’s first choice is so often London, for instance? Well, mostly because they only know English. And they only know English because having London, you would be excused imagining English is the only language you’ll really ever need.
But that’s not ‘union in diversity’, as Europe should be. Without London, Europeans will have to start dreaming about Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid. And so realize they might have to learn French, Swedish, maybe Czech. Of course with English as basic glue; but still on a more equal footing. Instead of overwhelming one country with immigration, that would create a truly European generation.
So, of course the Brits will not have the cake and eat it -that would be ridiculous in all cases. But we should not be opposed to letting them go off with most of the cake they choose not to eat. We should also be wishing them good luck.